Mother Nature is messing with Connecticut gardens

I know, it’s hard not to panic when reading:

Freeze Warning

Valid: April 27 at 3:30PM EDT – April 28 at 8:00AM EDT

* LOCATIONS…PORTIONS OF SOUTHERN CONNECTICUT…THE LOWER HUDSON VALLEY AND NORTHEASTERN NEW JERSEY.
* HAZARDS…HARD FREEZE.
* TEMPERATURES…25 TO 30.
* TIMING…EARLY SATURDAY MORNING.
* IMPACTS…ANY OUTDOOR…SENSITIVE VEGETATION MAY SUFFER DAMAGE IF NOT PROTECTED DUE TO TEMPERATURES DROPPING BELOW FREEZING FOR A PERIOD LATE TONIGHT.

But it is not unusual to have a frost or a freeze in April or into May.  We live in Connecticut. Yes, our weather has been warm but, unless Connecticut moved to another region while I was otherwise occupied, it’s still a New England state. And April is a fickle month. Some years it’s warm, others it’s cold. This year Mother Nature cannot make up her mind just what she wants April to be.

It’s easy to get caught up in gardening mode when the weather is warm. I have two hibiscus

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and  a fig I overwintered indoors.

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All are just itching to soak up the warmth of the sun on my covered south-facing front porch, but their new, tender leaves are not ready to brave the cool nighttime temperatures we are having, and I’m not willing to move such large plants out during the day and in at night.

It’s easy to become intoxicated with the early Spring warmth that has caused many plants and shrubs to blossom nearly three weeks earlier than normal. For the most part April has felt and looked like May. In 2011, my purple lilacs were not in full bloom until May 14. This year they were fully open on April 23.

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But April warmth does not mean that tender plants such as tomatoes, peppers, most greenhouse-grown bedding annuals and most houseplants should be outside yet, unless tended by a very experienced gardener with enough time to cover them or move them in and out according to each day’s temperatures.

If you have already placed tender plants in the ground cover them with upside down apple baskets, overturned pots, or sheets. If you must, do this before you go to bed. The real cold won’t hit until the early morning hours. Just make sure the covering is not touching any leaves. Coverings will transfer cold to the leaves, causing damage. And, by all means, move any potted tender plants or houseplants back inside until nighttime temperatures moderate a bit.

Any freeze that materializes is likely to shorten the life of blooms already open and may alter the quality of blooms still in bud. But, in situations like this we need to accept that we are not in charge.

So cover any newly planted annuals or blooming perennials you simply cannot live without, grab a camera to preserve some digital reminders of your blooms, then pick as many as possible and fill every available horizontal space with fresh cut flowers.

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When you have no room for another indoor bouquet, sit back, enjoy, and remember … it’s April.

Garden thoughtfully.

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4 comments for “Mother Nature is messing with Connecticut gardens

  1. April 27, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    Excellent advice. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I have learned from experience, that if you cover something with an overturned pot that has a hole or holes in it (for drainage when used as a pot) some plants will get nipped where they are near those holes. If you have any choice, don’t cover a plant with a pot that just barely covers it.

    • April 27, 2012 at 9:21 pm

      So true, Kathy. The covering material must be large enough to not touch plant leaves. I learned this from experience as well.

  2. April 28, 2012 at 9:50 am

    April frosts. Such an aggravation, especially after we were lured with the warm spring into planting stuff TOO EARLY! No damage here, though, although a young sapling tree with barely unfurling foliage has black leaves, but I am hoping it will send out new leaves as spring progresses, and be fine.

    Such wind we had yesterday doesn’t help the seedlings as they harden off. All stayed inside yesterday during the gales!

    • April 28, 2012 at 9:20 pm

      Laurrie, the wind makes it difficult to do any additional garden clean up. Leaves everywhere and need to stay out from under trees. That’s a difficult thing to do in my yard.

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